Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Rock Tour - Olgas

Day 2 of our journey with The Rock Tour led us to the Olgas. You can see them behind us. Our guide said that was really Homer Simpson laying on his side. D'OH!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Rock Tour - Hunter Gatherers

The Rock Tour took us on a three day adventure from Alice Springs, to King's Canyon, to the Olgas, and finally to Uluru (Ayer's Rock)

At King's Canyon, we ran up Heart Attack Hill, and were treated to some spectacular land formations. And we learned that the Grand Canyon isn't really a canyon -- it's a gorge. Anyway, pictures don't really do it justice, but here ya go:

Before a cold night under the stars in Australia's Red Center, you need to gather firewood. And that's just what we did! It's just that some pieces of wood need more gatherin' than others do.

Below, the muheres are not playing Bush Rugby, they're shaking a burnt-out stump loose from the ground. Some of these buggers can be quite stubborn, but the girls were successful in the end!

After all the gathering is done, the work is not. We poor tourists were forced into further labor: loading the dangerous, spikey stumps atop the trailer, as well as being expected to tie reliable knots!

But the efforts were worth the troubles! Cozy warmth under a cloudless, Outback sky!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fun With Timer

As we drove down the coast, south of Perth, we were taking in the sunset at Bunbury, and we got creative with the camera's timer function. We like this shot the most:

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Great Ocean Road

Our friends in Geelong graciously lent us their car today so we could head out and explore The Great Ocean Road!

This wonderful coastal road is in the Great State of Victoria, which is governed by the wonderful capital city of Melbourne. In Victoria, the weather changes often. The Victorians are known for good-heartedly complaining about "Four seasons in a day", although I doubt it ever snows (ha!)

Anyway, when the weather's a changin', there's bound to be rainbows about, and we weren't disappointed, because we were greeted with a beauty as soon as we hit the Southern Ocean:

There are some odd rock formations along the road, and these are the main tourist attractions, although they seem to be diminishing. One of these attractions is called The Twelve Apostles, but several of the twelve have disappeared in recent years. Here we see two Apostles:

Stripey tried her best to fill in for the missing ones:

Interestingly, the Twelve Apostles used to be called "The Sow and Piglets." No word on whether or not the sow is still standing.

A bit further down the road, we took in London Bridge, just before dark. London Bridge used to connect to the mainland, but it fell down in 1990. We heard that there were tourists out on the remaining part when the arch collapsed, but nobody was hurt.

Here we have more Stupid Tourist Tricks with photography. Keeping true to London custom, we see our subject Minding the Gap:

And judging by the hardness of said subject's head, we might call this snapshot "Marble Arch". We'll leave it up to you.

These attractions are located just west of Port Campbell. The satellite images isn't quite up to snuff yet, but perhaps one day you'll be able to see the rocks from space.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

51st State

We saw this book in the gift shop at Australia's Parliament in Caneberra.

Evidently Oz is trying to muscle in on Canada's claim:

Friday, May 25, 2007

Feed the Parrots

The neighbors here in Lane Cove, Sydney have some friendly visitors. Every afternoon, the most colorful parrots hang about in the trees around their back yard, hoping for a treat. The little buggers don't seem to be too worried about people harming them, as the photos below show!

food (munch munch) more interesting than big scary guy

closeup of colorful little critters

makes you want a bowl of Fruit Loops!

So if you're in Sydney, you can skip the stinking zoo. Just go to the neighbors and feed the parrots! ;)

For you bird watchers out there, these little guys are evidently called the Rainbow Lorikeet.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Schizophrenic Cockatoo

Last weekend -- here in Lane Cove, Sydney (Google map) -- we were sitting around in our neighbors garage watching the pig roast (another story altogether) While we sampled bits of the roast, we were also being amused by our good friend: Koki the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. Koki is the neighbors faithful pet bird, and is usually in good spirits, as seen here:

After a while, though, Koki started getting all aggressive. Perhaps she had angst about ending up like the poor little piggie:

Perhaps she was riled up from chasing/biting the grill's eletctrical cord every time somebody moved it. Or maybe the camera-flash freaked her out. Whatever the reason, she started flaring the yellow comb on her head, spreading her wings, and aggressively attacking our toes! She was promptly escorted to her cage, but not before inspiring these comics:

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Weird Products #1

Every once in a while, we just have to laugh at the small differences between the countries in which we live, and those we visit. Here's a sampling of products that have made us laugh (or cringe)

In Australia, it looks like Burger King has a twin brother:

While we were in New Zealand, it took me a couple of times to the super-market before I realized that the Kiwis do not eat tons and tons of Jimmy Dean Sausage:

We were just dying to buy this guitar for our "little" brother back home:

I almost broke my neck when I did a double-take at this item in the dairy section of Cole's:

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Spewing Turtles of Hyde Park

So yesterday, we were walking through the center of Sydney, Australia -- through Hyde Park to be exact. Not the real Hyde Park, but the fake one. Anyway, we came to a fountain, and I'm struck with this intense feeling of Godzilla-de-ja-vu.

I never thought I'd put the words "spewing" and "turtles" together, but, well here you go. I'm also amazed at how many hits "spewing turtles" returns on Google.

Click here for the plan-view of the spewing turtles.

CeBIT in Sydney

So who knew that there was a CeBIT show in Sydney? We were walking along Cockle Bay in Darling Harbour and couldn't help but notice all the red flags! Tempted as I was, the A$66 entry-fee kept me properly "on vacation." Besides, by the time we're done with our trip, all the gadgets from this show will be obsolete anyway. :)

More info:By the way, did you know what CeBIT stands for?

Centrum der Büro- und Informationstechnik


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sydney Opera House

Okay, we're in Sydney, so I guess we have to go down to see the clam shells.

The Sydney Opera House is located right smack on the water, on the north side of Sydney's downtown area. To get here, head for the area called Circular Quay (say: KEY) or to the area just to the west called The Rocks. You can easily walk to the Opera House from either of these two areas.

The Rocks runs down into Circular Quay, and the whole area is very festive. You'll find it crammed full of restaraunts and bars with magnificent views. The air is filled with aboriginal didgeridoo techno vibes from the street performers -- welcome to Down Under! And the entire skyline is framed by the magnificent Harbor Bridge. Day or night, this is a spectacular place to hang out!

the Harbor Bridge frames it all

We actually took the Opera House Tour, which much to my museum-hating suprise was really cool and interesting! Like the guidebook says, it's "strongly recommended". It was quite interesting, and, you get to sit down in comfy seats while the guide talks! No sore feet from this tour!

resting up for the tour

Some interesting tidbits about the Opera House:
  • The project was a public works fiasco, complete with fights with the architect, who left the project halfway through construction, and didn't return to Australia until very recently. (See About The House > History here)
  • The "clam shells" are called "sails", and serve no structural purpose. They are purely decorative. And no, they don't open and close.
  • The main lobby is carpeted in a luxurious purple. Purple, according to italian-theater superstition, is evidently the kiss of death. So the famouse italian opera singers refuse to perform at this marvelous venue

I-ta-lia! I-ta-lia!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Welcome to Oz

Well, just a few days after arriving in Sydney (Google map), we've had our first brush with death.

Never mind the close calls in New Zealand, what with all that sky-diving, the ferocious possums, the treacherous drives on razor-thin canyon roads, nor the rabid wild dolphins of Kaikoura.

Yes, we've just seen our first poisonous critter. The feared Red Back Spider! Hiding out in a bucket in the backyard, just waiting to devour a couple a tourists! Luckily my handy-dandy sandal put a quick end to the threat and we've lived to see another day!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Manly Ferry

The first thing you should do when you get to Sydney is exactly what we did: hop on the ferry from Circular Quay to Manly and back again.

Take the ferry just before dusk, so you see the city by day, or just as the sun sets.

Then you can have dinner in Manly, and see the cityscape by night for the return journey. It's bright and beautiful, as you can see!

The famous Opera House is haunting as you drift by in the quiet night:

Oh, if you're taking the bus, there's a day-pass that includes ferry rides, for around AUD$15.00 at the time of publishing. The pass is called the DayTripper. Get up early and ride boats all day long! Sydney Harbor is HUGE!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Picton Poi

I always thought that poi was a Hawaiian pudding — made from some sort of root — that you ate with two fingers.


Tonight we are sleeping in the little hamlet of Picton (Google Map) at the Juggler’s Rest backpacker’s hostel. This place, by the way, is far-and-away our favorite hostel to date.

Anyway, we have just spent thirty pleasant minutes on the spacious porch enjoying Nikki’s fire-show, which we have learned is also called poi. It turns out that poi is a form of juggling, or twirling. Poi is the Mauri word for ball, and people who do poi twirl balls from the end of strings or chains.

To make this ball-twirling more interesting, some folks light the balls on fire, as we saw this evening! Have a look at Nikki in action!

Steepest Hill in the World

Welcome to Dunedin (say DUHN-NEE-DIN), New Zealand. Dunedin has a scottish feel to it, and is nestled amongs some seriously steep hills. It’s great to go “city-hiking” here because you can get a full workout in only 150m!

One notable bit of Dunedin is Baldwin Street (Google map), which is supposedly the steepest hill in the world. If you look for the circular area in the lower-right corner of the satellite map, you’ll be staring at the top of the hill, where they’ve erected a bench for conquerers to rest upon, and put a drinking fountain right next to it. Nice touch, Dunedin city council!

For some reason, being on the steepest hill in the world makes everyone do silly things and go all goofy, as prooved below:

Baldwin Street Angular Contrast Study

The Great Arch of Baldwin Street

The hill is so steep, that, as a workman was driving his truck up the hill, his shovel fell right off the back! The next photo shows you the steepness of the hill, and the kindness of japanese tourists, who are waving the shovel for the man to retrieve:

The Return of the Shovel

The World’s Southern-most Venti Mocha Frappuccino

It seems that we tourists are forever preoccupied with the Biggest, Longest, Tallest, Highest and generally Most Extreme that a place has to offer. Well then, welcome to Invercargill (Google Map), a bustling metropolis on the southern end of New Zealand’s South Island that did not disappoint our Guinness-book-of-world-records quest.

It may not be the most difficult-to-pronounce name in all of creation (well almost), and it may not be the city with the most sheep in all of New Zealand. But Invercargill, Ladies & Gentlemen happens to be the proud home to:

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, that’s one more extreme checked off our list, baby!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rush Hour in the Catlins

I suppose every traveller to New Zealand has some sort of experience like this. Nevertheless, we’ll force you to chew up your bandwidth and download a picture of our version of the story!

Let's just say that we ran into quite a slowdown while driving the side roads in the Catlins (Google Map), way down at the southern tip of New Zealand’s South Island.


Or: mooooove over!, as it were! And by the way, that’s my forehead in the rear-view mirror…

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


One thing about New Zealand, there sure is a lot of sheep! While we were down in the Catlins, we caught a pretty glimpse of a few of the 40,000,000 furry critters, just as the sun was going down:

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rainbows on Milford Sound

The southwest corner of New Zealand’s south island is Fjord Country. We were up at the crack of dawn for the long drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound (Google Map: Te Anau to Milford Sound)

The weather changes every five seconds in Milford Sound, from overcast, to raining, to sunny, to pouring-down rain, etc. There’s so much water in the air, that you can’t help but see a few rainbows. As we arrived in the parking lot, things were looking good:

Once out on the boat, the captain took us right against the fjord walls to catch some spray right from the waterfalls as they fell hundreds of meters into the sound. According to Mauri legend, if a women bathes her face in the spray of this particular waterfall, she will look years younger. See/judge for yourself!

To see just what our crazy captain was up to, you can see another boat cruising under a waterfall, just as we did.

Our boat was considerably smaller, and we recommend that visitors to Milford Sound book the smaller boat. It’s a cheaper deal, the boat is more maneuverable, and it just feels so much more intimate than the big boat, with its hundreds of tourists.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Kayaking the Abel Tasman

The Abel Tasman National Park (Google map) in New Zealand's South Island is a great place to hike, camp, jet-boat, swim, and kayak.

Yes, we did a bunch of hiking and some swimming in the beautiful, blue ocean.

Guess what else we did?

Friday, March 2, 2007

Google-mapping New Zealand’s Catlins

As we rounded the southern bend of New Zealand’s lower island, we couldn’t help snickering at the road signs to the thriving metropolis of Gore (population = 13,279), and thinking of our beloved Democrat Haters (and Lovers) back home. Big hugs to all, by the way.

As we made jokes ’round the table that night about how the internet must have been invented in NewZealand, a Kiwi chimed in to let us know that the plot was even thicker than we had imagined: check this out!

Yes, the last time we tried this route, George Dubbya and his chads stood in the way, but the inconvenient truth is that road from Clinton to Gore is and was only 41.4 kilometers!

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Backpacker Hostels in New Zealand

If you are staying in New Zealand for any appreciable amount of time, you should get to know the friendly blue-green BBH-kiwi logo below, and learn about the Budget Backpacker Hostels New Zealand accomodation network. They offer a huge network of lodgings on both the north and the south island, many of which are of excellent quality.

If you were planning on staying in hotels -- something a lot of older travellers seem to do -- you might want to look at our "advantages" list. If you are already sold on the idea, then have a look at our "tips" list.

BBH Advantages
  • It's Cheaper
    We paid around NZ$50 per night for a double room, mostly with shared bathrooms. This turned out to be a non-factor after a few nights. You get used to it fast -- it's just like living at home.
  • You Learn More
    When you sit around the dinner table together, or share coffee in the living room on a rainy evening, you get to meet a lot of interesting people, all of whom have travel advice and tips that are hard or impossible to glean from your Lonely Planet guide. Frankly, it's just a lot more fun to get info by talking to folks rather than sticking your nose in a book.
  • Home Cookin'
    The BBH hostels in New Zealand all have shared kitchens. That means you don't have to go out to a restaraunt every night. That means you save money, and probably save time and energy. Eating out every night actually seems more tiring to us -- somehow you have to behave for the wait-staff, and wait around a lot. Cooking for yourselves just feels more "like home". It was also nice to be able to haul provisions along in the car to the next place. We could bring our vinegar and oil along in the boot of our car!
  • Practice Your German
    Neither one of us is german, but we lived in Munich for four years. We were a bit worried about losing our language-skills, but soon found out that the germans are far and away the #1 travellers in New Zealand. We spent many wonderful evenings time talking to great people in our second-favorite-est language : )

BBH Tips
  • Buy the BBH Card
    The BBH system allows you to buy a membership card for NZ$40. With this card, you save NZ$3 per night on your accomodation. So the card pays for itself in just over 13 nights. The card also includes NZ$20 worth of calling-card credit, which can also be figured in to your ROI calculus.
  • Telephone Card Gotcha
    20 bucks worth of telephoning sounds nice, but you need to call a local access-number to get the card to work. This is a bit of a problem because:

    1) Not every BBH hostel offers a phone where you can make local calls for free, so you have to buy a Telecom card that charges 70 cents for the local access-call, upon which you can use your BBH card to call home.

    2) Not every part of New Zealand is within local-calling range, so you may have extra charges to just to get to the card's nearest access-number.

  • Look For No TV
    We found that backpackers with no television, or extremely well-separated television rooms were much more peaceful, better run, and better kept. We also found that people were more likely to socialize without a television.
  • Look For "No Shoes" Policy
    We also found that our favorite hostels had a "no shoes in house" policy. These places were well cared-for, and the people who stayed in them were conscientious, friendly and cleaned up after themselves.